Thursday, February 28, 2013



P. Anyang' Nyong'o
For Sunday Standard,  March 3, 2013

If you ask me, I think Sam Kivuitu was an amazing man. A master of English soliloquy, he excelled in humor as well, to the point that his sarcasm was delivered with the wit that only William Shakespeare could have summoned were he alive today. When he said during the tense moments at the KICC in December 2007, that his Returning Officers "were still busy cooking results, but when they get here we shall tell them to return to the person who told them to cook," he was passing an important message that only dim witted folks failed to decipher.

As for me and my house I took it that the Chairman knew some external forces were responsible for messing up with the results. And these forces had started earlier by undermining his commission from within. Returning Officers "cooking results" was no accident: it had carefully been orchestrated by those bound to declare themselves winners after messing up the electoral process.

After all, wasn't he who had complained to us that electoral commissioners were being forced on him during the run up to the elections? Hadn't he even written to the president, complaining about the same? What did his line Minister do in return?

A couple of Sundays ago my wife Dorothy and I went to see Sam and his family in their Garden Estate home after our Sunday service at the Ridgeways Baptist Church where we worship with Kivuitu's son, ....... For quite some time I had been planning to see Sam, but procrastination was always my undoing. This particular Sunday we were determined that seeing Sam was top of the "must do list" that day, and we did it.

When we arrived Sam was at home with his wife Priscilla, his brother John Allan Musyoka and a couple of relatives. Sam was in jovial mood; so was John who could not spare our ribs any moment of rest given the many jokes that he kept on cracking. Sam went down memory lane from when he was diagnosed with cancer to his predicament then, assuring us that he couldn't have been any better given where he had come from. I empathized with him deeply when he recounted his experience with early misdiagnosis of his cancer, and how, by sheer insistence, he finally got a true and clear picture of his health status. Many cancer patients go through this journey; and it is quite disconcerting how late diagnosis ends up with tragedies which could have been avoided.

True to his sense of humor and ability to mock at himself at times, Sam told me that a friend of his had whispered to him that it was the ODM which had bewitched him so as to get cancer. Musyoka Annan, a clown of a fellow if you asked me, rubbed this in by insisting that the ODM top bras come from a constellation of areas renown for very "kali" witchcraft, making the Akamba ones mere child play. But since, as Secretary General, I had now come to see the Mzee, there was a chance I could remove the spell for Sam to regain his health!

I remember spending some time with Sam Kivuitu in South Africa while at a conference on the Africa Peer Review Mechanism, APRM. As the then Minister for Planning and National Development I took charge of the APRM process in Kenya and Sam was one of my pillars in this regard. He was at his best when he explained the importance as well as the limits of periodic elections in Africa, especially when they are conducted under "rules of the game" that can hardly promote democratic choice let alone democratic governance. That issue of poor "rules of the game" finally provided his eventual undoing as  the Chairman of the Electoral Commission in Kenya.

But Sam was never one who could let go that easily. He did try to find a forum to put his case, notably before the courts in Kenya. But one will remember that the courts, too, were going through a period
of turmoil at the time that Sam and his former commissioners were seeking redress in the courts. My hunch is that the old man was in a dilemma. How was he to reconcile himself with the commissioners who were imposed on him, and hence who were largely responsible for undermining his authority from within? Was it really legitimate to have a case where all the commissioners could appeal against wrongful dismissal following the Kriegler Report?

Sam Kivuitu had tremendous confidence in himself, to the extent that he could have quite rightly exhibited some arrogance in dealing with people with slow minds. But that ability to ask shocking and unexpected questions served him well when he faced the December 2007 electoral crisis. My hope is that someone will complete the book he was writing since, as Psalm 23 says, the Lord had to finally let his servant depart in peace according to His word, not ours. We obviously wanted Sam to be with us longer; but his maker knew better.

May the good Lord bless and keep him, and may He let his soul rest in eternal peace.